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War crimes during the War in Sudan (2023–present)

Both of the warring sides stand accused of committing war crimes

The war in Sudan, which started on 15 April 2023, has seen a widespread of war crimes committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF),[1][2][3][4] with the RSF being singled out by the Human Rights Watch,[4] and the United Kingdom[5] and United States[6] governments for committing crimes against humanity. The conflict was marked by heavy indiscriminate shelling, gunfire, and airstrikes on markets and populated residential neighbourhoods, causing a high number of fatalities. Hospitals were targeted during aerial bombings and artillery fire, and medical supplies were looted. These attacks severely impacted Sudan’s healthcare system, disrupting medical services and leaving the majority of the hospitals in conflict-affected states out of service. The UN declared Sudan the most dangerous country for humanitarian workers after South Sudan.[7]

In Geneina, West Darfur, the RSF and Arab militias killed at least 1,100 non-Arab people.[8] On 22 July, a Masalit tribal leader claimed that more than 10,000 people had been killed in West Darfur alone, and that 80% of Geneina’s residents had fled. Massacres against the Masalit were recorded in towns such as Tawila, Sirba, Ardamata, Kutum, and Misterei, while a mass graves were discovered around Geneina. The UK[5][9] and US[6][10] governments, witnesses, and other observers described the violence in the region as tantamount to ethnic cleansing[9][11] or even genocide,[12][13][14] with non-Arab groups such as the Masalit being the primary victims. The RSF and Arab militias are also accused of widespread robberies, looting food meant to feed 4.4 million people, and sexual violence against Sudanese and foreign women, particularly Masalit and non-Arab women. NGOs estimate that the actual figure of sexual violence victims could be as high as 4,400.[15] The UN is urged to start an inquiry and governments are encouraged to allocate resources to aid survivors.

The RSF and Arab militias in Sudan are also accused of targeted torture and killings of intellectuals, politicians, professionals, and tribal leaders. Notable victims include Adam Zakaria Is’haq, a physician and human rights advocate, and Khamis Abakar, the governor of West Darfur, who was kidnapped, tortured, and executed.[16] The RSF also targeted the families of their opponents, such as Mustafa Tambour’s family. The SAF and RSF are accused of threatening, attacking, and killing journalists during the conflict. The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate documented over 40 violations in May alone. Several journalists were injured or killed, and 13 newspapers ceased operations. Humanitarian workers were also targeted, with 18 killed and many others detained.

The International Criminal Court[17][18] and Amnesty International[2] are investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the wat. The SAF accused the RSF of perpetrating these crimes. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (SAF commander) established a committee to investigate these allegations. Several countries proposed a motion to the UN Human Rights Council for an investigation into the atrocities. The UN Human Rights Council voted to adopt a resolution creating a fact-finding committee on these crimes. Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan have called for measures to protect civilians.

Background and casualties

The war in Sudan broke on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), rival factions of the military government of Sudan. As of December, more than 9,000[19] to 10,000 people had been killed,[20] 12,000 others injured,[21] and 5.6 million internally displaced,[22] and 1.5 million are refugees.[22]

On 12 June, the Sudan Doctors Syndicate said at least 959 civilians had been killed and 4,750 others were injured.[23] On 15 August, the UN said that at least 435 children had been killed in the conflict.[24] Doctors on the ground warned that stated figures do not include all casualties as people could not reach hospitals due to difficulties in movement.[25] A spokesperson for the Sudanese Red Crescent was quoted as saying that the number of casualties "was not small".[26] Sudanese prosecutors recorded over 500 missing persons cases across the country, some of which were enforced disappearances, and were mostly blamed on the RSF.[27]

According to BBC,[28] The Guardian,[5] CNN,[4] PBS NewsHour,[3] and Amnesty International widespread war crimes committed in Sudan by both sides.[29][30][31]

Mass casualty incidents

Hospital attacks

In Sudan's conflict, both sides have potentially committed war crimes against medical facilities and staff, as evidenced by BBC News Arabic. Aerial bombings and artillery fire targeted hospitals while patients were inside, and medical personnel were singled out for attacks, all constituting potential war crimes. Most hospitals in Khartoum closed due to weeks of fighting, impacting civilians' access to healthcare. Satellite data, extensive user-generated content analysis, and doctor testimonies substantiate the devastating effects on healthcare facilities.[32]

The World Health Organization condemned these assaults as clear violations of international humanitarian law and demanded an immediate halt. The conflict led to attacks on hospitals such as Ibn Sina and East Nile, potentially meeting criteria for war crimes. RSF fighters surrounded the East Nile hospital and reportedly forced patient evacuations.[32]

There were incidents of airstrikes without warnings resulting in civilian deaths. Several hospitals were commandeered by opposing fighters, compromising civilian treatment. Threats to doctors from both sides, including public accusations and intimidation, highlight the targeting of medical professionals. International medical organisations, including Sudan's Doctors for Human Rights, have documented these atrocities as potential crimes against humanity and war crimes, aiming to present evidence to international or national judicial authorities for accountability.[32]

For example, on 18 April, reporters said that armed personnel had entered several hospitals in Khartoum.[33] On 25 April, despite the ceasefire, heavy artillery fire was reported in Omdurman, where a dozen people were injured after a hospital was hit.[34] On 13 May, the SAF accused the RSF of attacking two hospitals in Khartoum.[35] On 14 May, eyewitnesses in Geneina said Arab militias entered a hospital and massacred 12 non-Arab patients.[36] On 15 May, The Sharq el-Nil Hospital in Khartoum was reported to have been hit by an air strike.[37][32] On 22 May, Fighting was reported around the Aliyaa military hospital in Omdurman and south of the city near the border with White Nile State, near a small airport.[38]

On 1 July, the Sudanese Doctors Union accused the RSF of raiding the Shuhada hospital and killing a staff member. The RSF denied the accusation.[39] On 15 July, five people were killed and 22 others were injured in a drone strike on the Aliya hospital in Omdurman blamed on the RSF.[40][41] On 16 July, the RSF was accused of attacking the Aliya hospital for a second day with drones.[40] On 20 July, an 18-member team of Médecins Sans Frontières was attacked while transporting supplies to the Turkish Hospital in south Khartoum.[42] On 1 August, the Doctors' Hospital, northwest of Khartoum Airport, partially collapsed due to shelling, with the RSF accusing the SAF of targeting the facility in airstrikes.[43] On 9 October, three people were killed by SAF shelling on the Al-Nau hospital in Omdurman,[44] and 20 people were killed by RSF shelling at a clinic attached to a mosque in the Samarab neighbourhood of Khartoum Bahri.[45]

These attacks also severely impacting the country's healthcare system,[46] and disrupted medical services, jeopardising the operation of remaining hospitals and clinics in Khartoum.[47] Over 46 verified assaults on health workers and facilities were documented, resulting in fatalities and injuries. On 19 September, the WHO also said that between 70-80% of hospitals in conflict-affected states were out of service,[48][49] either for being closed or destroyed.[50]

Indiscriminate shelling

From the start of the war since 15 April, heavy shelling and gunfire was reported in Khartoum, Khartoum Bahri and Omdurman as the RSF accused the SAF of staging a "sweeping attack" that continued through April,[51][52] and May.[53] During negotiations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 12 May, there was no agreement towards a cessation of hostilities as air strikes and shelling in Khartoum.[54] During May, two people were reported to have been killed in an SAF airstrike in Khartoum,[55] and the Sudanese Doctors' Union said that at least 18 people were killed and more than 100 others were wounded after rockets hit a market in Mayo, south of Khartoum.[56]

In June, the SAF continuing the airstrikes and indiscriminate shelling of RSF positions in Khartoum[57][58] and El-Obeid,[59] as the SAF killed 10 students from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the International University of Africa in Khartoum.[60] 17 people were killed by RSF shelling in the El Jamarik neighbourhood of Geneina.[61]

During July, the SAF airstrikes and shelling killed at least 16 people in Ombadda, Omdurman,[62] between 22 and 31 people in Dar es Salaam district of Omdurman,[63] at least 30 civilians in Nyala,[64] and 18 civilians in Omdurman.[64] The month also witnessed SAF's airstrikes of villages in the north of Gezira state,[65] and 16 civilians and four children were killed during exchanges of rocket fire between the SAF and the RSF in Nyala[65] and El Remeila neighbourhood, respectively.[66] A child was killed and three others were injured by SPLM-N (al-Hilu) shelling of SAF positions in Kadugli.[67][68]

In July, the SAF airstrikes and shelling killed at least 29 people in Nyala[69] with 24 people killed in a market,[70] and 7 civilians near the central market in south Khartoum.[71] At least 40 people were killed during heavy shelling between the SAF and the RSF in civilian areas of Nyala. Thirty of them died after a missile hit the Teiba Bridge where they had been hiding underneath. Six others were killed at a funeral.[72] The SPLM-N (al-Hilu) attacked SAF positions in Dalami, South Kordofan, injuring two civilians from shelling.[73] It also claimed that the RSF shelled the nearby Al-Salama area with mortar fire during their retreat, killing between six and ten civilians according to conflicting sources.[74]

During September, the SAF airstrikes and shelling killed at least 20 civilians, including two children, in Kalakla al-Qubba, Khartoum,[75] 32 in Ombada, Omdurman,[76] 51 in Gouro market in Khartoum,[77][78] 43 in another market in Khartoum,[79][80] 17 in Omdurman,[78] 25 in Khartoum North,[81] and 45 in Nyala.[82] People were also killed by indiscriminate shelling by the RSF, including at least 104 people who were killed throughout Khartoum. At least 30 of them were killed in the Hilet Kouko cattle market near Sharg El Nil,[83] while ten people were killed and 11 others were injured in the Aljarafa area in the north of Omdurman.[84] More civilians were killed during clashes between the SAF and RSF, with 25 people killed in Omdurman,[85] one in El-Odeya, West Kordofan,[86] and 30 in El Fasher.[87]

During October, the RSF shelling killed at least 10 people in the El Jarafa neighbourhood of Omdurman,[88] 20 people at a clinic attached to a mosque in the Samarab neighbourhood of Khartoum Bahri,[45] and 190 people following two days of RSF artillery shelling of SAF air defence positions on Jebel Awlia, Khartoum.[89] The RSF also shelled the Al-Takrir neighborhood near El-Fasher.[90] The SAF shelling killed 11 in the Karari neighbourhood of Omdurman,[91] 3 people at the Al-Nau hospital in Omdurman,[44] and 3 people at the El Khamees Market in Zalingei.[92]

In November, At least 15 people were killed after the RSF shelled the Zaglouna market in Karari, Omdurman,[93] and 12 people were killed by shelling in Karari, Omdurman.[94]

In addition, individuals of all ages have been trapped in the crossfire during frequent attacks in densely populated civilian areas, with both sides employing explosive weaponry that affects a wide area.[2][50] Actress Asia Abdelmajid,[95] singer Shaden Gardood, former football player Fozi el-Mardi and his daughter,[96] and Araki Abdelrahim, a member of the music group Igd al-Jalad, were killed in crossfire.[97]

Massacres and ethnic cleansing

In Geneina, West Darfur, ethnic clashes that began in the last week of April had killed at least 1,100 people,[8] while on 20 June the Sultanate of Dar Masalit claimed that more than 5,000 people were killed and about 8,000 were wounded in the city by the RSF and Janjaweed.[14] On 22 July, a Masalit tribal leader claimed that more than 10,000 people had been killed in West Darfur alone, and that 80% of Geneina's residents had fled.[14] Massacres were recorded in towns such as Tawila[98] and Misterei,[99] while a mass grave was discovered in Geneina containing the bodies of 87 people killed in clashes.[100] The UK government,[9][5][101] witnesses and other observers described the violence in the region as tantamount to ethnic cleansing or even genocide, with non-Arab groups such as the Masalit being the primary victims.[98][102]

Evidence has been mounting since August 2023 that the RSF is carrying out a systematic ethnic purge in Darfur. Warnings have been issued by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum[11] and the U.N. High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, about the potential escalation into a full-scale genocide.[103] In October, Genocide Watch issued an alert about the situation in Sudan, characterising the massacres performed by the RSF against the Masalit people as genocide. This view is shared by US academic Eric Reeves, who specialises in Sudan’s human rights record,[104] and The Economist.[13] Josep Borrell, the European Union’s chief of foreign policy, strongly condemned the killing of over 1,000 individuals in Ardamata and called on the international community to take immediate action to prevent a potential "genocide" in the area.[105] The UK government,[9] witnesses, and other observers have described the violence in the region as akin to ethnic cleansing or even genocide, with non-Arab groups such as the Masalit being the primary victims.[98] Mujeebelrahman Yagoub, Assistant Commissioner for Refugees in West Darfur, described the violence as worse than the War in Darfur in 2003 and the Rwandan genocide in 1994.[106]

Geneina massacre

On 13 July 2023, a UN investigation discovered a mass grave of 87 individuals, all Masalit civilians, near Geneina,[107] allegedly killed by the RSF between 13 and 21 June.[108] The Darfur Bar Association reported the next day that the refugee camps of Kreinik and Sirba were under siege by the RSF. All makeshift shelters and refugee camps had been burned down by 20 June.[109] Numerous villages, neighbourhoods, and cultural sites in and around Geneina were destroyed, including the city's Grand Market and the palace of the Masalit Sultanate.[109]

On 22 June, the Dar Masalit Sultanate also released a statement claiming more than 5,000 civilians had been killed between 24 April and 24 June, the majority of whom were non-Arabs. The Sultanate called the situation a "genocide", and footage emerged of corpses being used as barricades, and the bodies of men, women, and children strewn across the streets. Refugees from West Darfur speaking to Al Jazeera in late June corroborated these claims, adding that similar situations unfolded in the West Darfur towns of Misteri, Konga Haraza, and Tendelti between April and June.[110]

The RSF also attacked civilians in June on the road between Geneina and the Sudanese-Chadian border.[110] Many of these killings were at RSF checkpoints, where a pregnant woman was killed by militiamen for not having enough money for passage.[111] A Geneina refugee stated that "the road along El Geneina and Adré has a lot of bodies, nobody can count them".[112] Another source claimed over 350 people were killed on the road alone.[113]

While Masalit people were often the target of Arab militiamen, refugees claimed the militiamen shot at anyone black.[112] Prominent civil society members, including lawyers, humanitarian officials, and more, were targeted by militias and the RSF after and during the fall of the city.[114][115] The Darfur Bar Association called the ethnic cleansing "a full-scale genocide".[114] The United Nations released a statement on 24 June deploring "wanton killings", but did not mention perpetrators.[116]

On 12 August, a representative of the Masalit tribe, El Farsha Saleh Arbab Suleiman, gave a press conference in Port Sudan in which he accused the RSF of seeking to conceal evidence of crimes committed in Geneina by burying bodies in hidden locations and forcing the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) to hand over bodies.[117] The Coordination of Resistance Committees confirmed the reports of the mass graves and said that, as of 16 August, several bodies were still on the roofs of houses or inside buildings.[118] More than 1,000 bodies were found in 30 more mass graves on August 15.[119] Thirteen more mass graves were discovered on September 14 in Geneina.[120]

In an interview with AllAfrica, Masalit civilians in Adré recounted their experiences in the city, including the killing of a large group of displaced Masalit civilians within the city.[121] Masalit Sultan Saad Bahar el-Deen stated around 10,000 people from his community were killed by the RSF.[122] In CNN interviews on August 16, which included photos collected while the massacres were occurring, the last count of killed civilians was 884, and after June 9, it became uncountable, and that the town was a "ghost town".[123] Civilians also stated that young Masalit children were massacred by the RSF.[123]

Photos from the massacre showed several bodies in a pile in an abandoned and destroyed road in Geneina. A civilian stated that "bodies littered the street from Geneina Teaching Hospital to the southern parts of the city."[123] Civilians who fled Geneina in July stated many bodies had been dumped in ponds in the area of Maragibir, a town west of Geneina. They stated that some of these bodies appeared to have been dead for months and that two groups of tribes had been killed or "practically exterminated" by the RSF, those being the Masalit people and the Burgo tribes. Others added that the RSF would use volunteers and civilians to take these bodies down, especially in the northern suburbs of the city,[124] and provide bulldozers and trucks to bury the corpses.[123]

Misterei massacre

Prior to the Misterei attack, a group of 300 RSF fighters and allied tribes surrounded the town on the night of May 27, with the exceptions of the south and west, where the fighters entered the town.[125] The fighters came from the Awlad Rashid, Misseriya, and Awlad Janoob tribes, led by Mohamed Zain Taj Eldien and Hamid Yousef Mustafa.[126] Some of the assailants came from the Mima and Bargo ethnic groups.[126] The attackers arrived in twelve Land Cruisers, eight of which were RSF-owned, four of which were private.[126] Other fighters rode on around 150 horses and 140 motorcycles. Around 90 Sudanese Alliance militants, a signatory of the Juba Agreement, intervened in the town, led by Cpt. Elteybe Abdulla Ahmed.[126] Residents were fearful following the surrounding of the town, but there was "no way out".[125]

The first clashes began at Shorrong mountain right after sunrise, when Janjaweed launched an offensive from the west. Later offensives came from the north and south.[127] The Janjaweed came in waves, according to a veteran of the attacks, and many of the self-defence groups were spread out across and around the town in groups of 7 to 15.[127] The Masalit self-defence groups quickly fell to the Janjaweed.[127] Battles between the Sudanese Alliance and the Janjaweed lasted for three and a half hours, during which civilians stated the Arab fighters went house to house, killing darker-skinned Masalit and shouting "Kill the slave, kill the slave!"[126][127]

Wounded civilians were brought to the Atik mosque, although Janjaweed stormed the place and shot at the wounded and those attending to them.[125][127] After killing several people, Arab fighters cheered "We killed the zorga! (a slur for black people)."[127] The Janjaweed also looted houses, farms, and shops, before burning down many neighbourhoods.[127] The Misterei market was completely looted and torched.[126] Satellite imagery taken on June 3 showed the entire town burnt down.[127]

Kutum massacre

Clashes broke out in central Kutum on May 30, and spread to Kassab refugee camp on June 4.[128] At least fifty civilians were killed in the attacks on Kassab, with many more injured.[129] In the fighting, the market in Kutum was destroyed, along with much of Kassab.[130] Minni Minnawi, the governor of Darfur region, called Kutum a "disaster zone" on June 5, and deplored the massacres.[129] Residents speaking to Middle East Eye stated that the perpetrators of the attacks on Kassab were the RSF, and that official buildings in the town were torched.[131] Many residents fled to El Fasher or Hashabah, both dozens of kilometers away.[131]

North Darfur governor Nimir Abdelrahman released a statement deploring the killings.[132] On June 7, the Sudanese Combating Violence Against Women Unit stated that at least 18 women, including teenagers, were raped by the RSF and aligned Darfur Border Guards after they captured the city.[133] Attacks on villages surrounding Kutum began on June 9, with the mayor of Farouk town Mohamedein Bektum being executed by RSF fighters after refusing to give up his car key.[134][128][135] In the June 8 and 9 attacks, at least thirty-five more people were killed in RSF attacks.[136] Later, Governor Abdelrahman stated that 5,000 families in Kutum alone were in need of humanitarian assistance.[137] By July, more than 90% of the population of Kutum had fled.[138]

Sirba massacre

Sirba, West Darfur has been subject to violent seizure and destruction by the RSF and allied Arab militias multiple times.[139][140][141] During the war Sirba has experienced significant destruction and has been nearly destroyed or burned to the ground multiple times. Satellite data shows the massive fire destruction in the town in late July 2023, leading to tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives.[139]

The attacks involved looting, burning of homes and markets, and targeted violence against the ethnic African communities, particularly the Eringa tribe.[140][141] These attacks have led to significant loss of life, with hundreds of residents killed and thousands injured or displaced, including many who fled to Chad seeking safety.[141][142]

Taiba bridge massacre

Forty-two people, mainly women and children, were killed in an airstrike on August 23, while they were sheltering under Taiba bridge in Nyala, South Darfur, as most exits and entrances to the city were blocked off.[143][144][145] Five families were killed, and many others lost 3-4 members each.[146] Many of the killed were from the Taiba and El Sikka Hadid neighbourhoods, the former having recently been captured by the RSF.[147] The airstrike was the largest single-day death toll of the battle of Nyala. Nyala-based journalist Ahmed Gouja stated that the Taiba bridge massacre was not the only one in the city during the renewed fighting, but that the others were impossible to reach or get information about due to the clashes.[148] The RSF accused the SAF of indiscriminately shelling the RSF-controlled Taiba neighbourhood, and having perpetrated the Taiba bridge massacre.[149] The Sudanese Army did not make a statement on the airstrike.[149]

That same day, convoys from the Joint Darfur Force reached Nyala to deliver aid to civilians, with the commander, Lt. Col. Hussein Yaqoub stating the force was strictly neutral.[143] The Sudanese Communist Party decried the arrival of the JDF, claiming they only showed up after the carnage happened.[147] Médecins Sans Frontières stated that all of their staff in Nyala were unable to leave, and were subject to their homes being stormed by fighters and civilians used as human shields.[143] By early September, the el-Texas, el-Karari, and the southern parts of the city were the fiercest battlegrounds, with residents stating that much of Nyala was a ghost town due to indiscriminate shelling and RSF intrusions into civilian homes.[150] Cell phone service was restored on September 11.[151]

Ardamata massacre

On 8 November 2023, the Rapid Support Forces and Janjaweed[152] massacred between 800[153][154] and 1,300[155] in Ardamata, West Darfur, Sudan, although estimates vary.[156][157] The attack came after the Sudanese Armed Forces's 15th Infantry Division camp retreated to Chad.[158] About 20,000 fled to Chad following the violence.[155] Reports indicated ethnic targeting, specifically the Masalit community.[159][160]

Sexual violence

Females as young as 12, have endured sexual violence, including rape and sexual slavery.[161] The RSF and Arab militias were said to have committed sexual violence,[162] targeting Sudanese and foreign women,[163] especially Massalit and non-Arab women.[164] Gender activist Muna Malik reported widespread atrocities, including rapes by Janjaweed militia. UN experts alleged that rape was being used as a "tool to punish and terrorise communities".[165]

The UN expressed deep concern over the widespread sexual violence during the conflict but faces difficulty verifying due to limited access.[166] Distinguishing isolated cases from systemic rape is crucial under international law. Underreporting due to stigma and fear, and inadequate support hinder accurate documentation.[163][167] The use of sexual violence as a tool of war aligns with global patterns. Grassroots efforts attempt to aid victims amid collapsing healthcare infrastructure, as medical facilities face destruction.[163]

In July, the UN Human Rights office in Sudan disclosed receiving information on 21 instances of sexual violence involving a minimum of 57 women and girls.[168] Sudanese authorities reported at least 88 cases of sexual assault on women across the country, most of them blamed on the RSF.[169] Volker Türk, the head of UN human rights, pointed out that the RSF was implicated as the responsible party in nearly all reported cases to their office.[170] Both the UN and local rights organisations suspect that these figures represent only a small portion of the actual extent of the wrongdoing.[168]

NGOs estimated that the figure could possibly reach 4,400.[15] The Combating Violence Against Women Unit stated that it had recorded 88 cases of sexual assault in Geneina, Khartoum, and Nyala.[171] CNN confirmed and substantiated cases of sexual assault carried out by the RSF, which included an incident captured on video.[172] At a Chadian border site, the UN encountered pregnant adolescents, indicating further assaults. A survivor's sister became pregnant due to the assault.[167] In August, the UN Human Rights Council ought to commence an inquiry and establish methods to safeguard evidence regarding the violations, while governments invested in the matter should allocate additional resources to aid survivors of sexual assault.[164]

Theft and looting

The RSF and Arab militias were said to have committed robberies.[162] During April, the RSF was reported to have looted some residential areas in Khartoum, with residents of the Khartoum 2 area telling the BBC that the RSF had been going house-to-house demanding water and food.[173] The RSF was accused of assaulting civilians and going on a rampage of looting and burning in Khartoum,[174] Nyala, Geneina,[175] and other parts of the country,[176] including Merowe,[174] and Kubum and Markondi in South Darfur.[177]

Residents in Khartoum State[178] and Nyala, South Darfur[179] expressed concerns about widespread theft and pillaging, coupled with the complete lack of police presence and law enforcement."[180][181] In May and June, residents in Omdurman said that widespread looting took place at the Libyan Souq,[182] while the Somali embassy in Khartoum was ransacked and looted by RSF fighters.[183] The World Food Programme's warehouses in El-Obeid were looted. Officials said the amount of food stolen was enough to feed 4.4 million people.[184] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)'s 57 warehouses were also looted by the RSF, and the SAF diverted and confiscated medical supplies to their hospitals.[185]

During August, the RSF attacked the town of El Khoi, West Kordofan, injuring three civilians including a journalist, seizing four vehicles including an ambulance and two others belonging to the police, and looting the town's savings bank and police station.[186] Similar looting of government facilities, banks and other offices was reported in Al-Fulah.[187]

On 17 September, the SAF accused the RSF of setting fire to the Greater Nile Petroleum Oil Company Tower, as well as looted and burning the Khartoum Sahel and Sahara Bank tower.[188]

Targeted individuals

Torture and killing of individuals

Several intellectuals, politicians, professionals and nobility were assassinated. Most of these atrocities were blamed on the RSF and allied Arab militias. Sudanese prosecutors recorded over 500 missing persons cases across the country, some of which were enforced disappearances, and were mostly blamed on the RSF.[27] The RSF and Arab militias were said to have killed lawyers, human rights monitors, doctors and non-Arab tribal leaders.[189][190]

On 13 May, the RSF accused the SAF of assassinating an official of a football federation, Amir Hasaballah.[35] The same day the RSF intruded into the Mar Girgis (St George’s) Coptic Church complex in Khartoum’s Bahri area. They reportedly shot five clergymen and looted money and a gold cross.[2]

During an attack on 19 June 2023, emir Badawi Masri Balhredin, cousin of the Dar Masalit sultan, was killed by the RSF.[191] Several other prominent people were killed in attacks on 19 and 20 June, including Sadig Haroun, the Commissioner of Humanitarian Aid in the city, and several mayors and imams.[109]

Adam Zakaria

On 14 May, Adam Zakaria Is’haq, a 38-year-old physician and human rights advocate, was murdered along with 13 patients at the Medical Rescue Centre in El Geneina’s Jamarik neighbourhood. Colleagues of Adam informed Amnesty International that an armed Arab militia, including RSF members, were responsible for the 14 deaths. Adam was providing medical care at a small clinic when he was killed, as the main hospital in El Geneina had been previously destroyed by the same armed militia and RSF in late April. He was fatally shot in the chest, leaving behind his wife and two young sons, aged four and six.[2]

Khamis Abakar

When the 2023 Sudan conflict broke out, Abakar sided with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The Rapid Support Forces launched attacks on Masalit civilians during their siege on the city of Geneina, including members of Abakar's family.[192] Abakar narrowly escaped an assassination bid when unidentified armed individuals opened fire on his vehicle on April 28. Confidential informants with knowledge of the incident informed Al Jazeera that the alleged assailants were reportedly associated with the RSF.[193]

On June 14, an RSF shelling of the El Jamarik neighborhood killed seventeen civilians, including relatives of the Dar Masalit sultan.[194] One of the relatives killed was Dar Masalit emir Tariq Abdelrahman Bahlredin.[195] 37 others were wounded in the attack.[194] Khamis Abakar denounced the situation as a genocide on June 13, and stated the Sudanese Army was not leaving the army base to help civilians.[196] In response, the RSF called the battle of El Geneina a "tribal conflict".[197]

On June 15, Abakar was kidnapped, tortured and executed by alleged RSF militants, led by Abdel Rahman Jumma, for his statement two days prior.[198] The RSF blamed Sudanese forces for Abakar's killing, despite video evidence showing RSF soldiers assaulting Abakar. Masalit activists claimed Abakar was killed after he refused to refute his statements about genocide in El Geneina.[16] The head of the JEM, Mansour Arbab, accused Jumma of the killing of Abakar, along with the Joint Darfur Force. Minni Minnawi, leader of the JDF, deplored the killing but did not accuse the RSF.[16] Later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights deplored the killing.[199]

Ahmed Abkar Barqo Abdel-Rahman

Ahmed Abkar Barqo Abdel-Rahman a member of the Zaghawa people and a member of parliament, was reportedly killed by the RSF in a raid on his house in Nyala on 22 August 2023.[200]

Mustafa Tambour family

During the 2023 Sudan conflict, Tambour's house in Riyadh, Khartoum was raided on 8 May 2023.[201] On 17 July, the RSF assassinated one of his brothers, Motwakel, on the Nyala-Zalingei road.[202][203][204]

Targeting of journalists

Media organizations accused both the SAF and the RSF of threatening, attacking and even killing several journalists during the conflict, with the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate documenting more than 40 such violations during the second half of May alone.[205] Aside from the occupation of state media channels, the RSF raided the offices of the newspapers El Hirak El Siyasi, El Madaniya and the Sudanese Communist Party's El Midan[206] and shot and injured photojournalists Faiz Abubakr,[207] and Ali Shata,[208] while the SAF was accused of circulating lists of journalists it accused of supporting the RSF.[209]

BBC journalist Mohamed Othman was reportedly attacked and beaten in Khartoum while a correspondent and cameramen for the El Sharg news outlet were detained for hours near Merowe airport on the first day of the fighting on 15 April. On 16 June, Al Jazeera journalists Osama Sayed Ahmed and Ahmed El Buseili were shot by snipers in Khartoum,[210] while the RSF detained two of the channel's other reporters, Ahmed Fadl and Rashid Gibril, in Khartoum on 16 May, and subsequently looted Fadl's residence. During a live report on 29 April, al-Arabiya correspondent Salem Mahmoud was interrupted and questioned by the RSF.[211] On 30 June, Radio Zalingei journalist Samaher Abdelshafee was killed by shelling at Hasaheisa refugee camp near Zalingei, where she and her family had fled after fighting in the city.[212] Sudan TV photographer Esam Marajan was shot dead inside his home in the Beit El Mal neighbourhood of Omdurman in the first week of August.[213] Sports photojournalist Esam El Haj was killed during clashes around the Al-Shajara garrison in Khartoum on 20 August.[214] Halima Idris Salim, a reporter for Sudan Bukra was killed on 10 October after she was reportedly struck by an RSF vehicle while covering the fighting in Omdurman.[215]

The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate (SJS) reported on 10 August that 13 newspapers had ceased operations due to the conflict, while FM radio stations and channels also halted broadcasts, with journalists grappling with unpaid wages.[216]

Targeting of humanitarian workers

In the Battle of Kabkabiya, three employees of the World Food Programme (WFP) were killed after being caught in the crossfire at a military base. Two other staff members were injured.[217] On 18 April, the EU's top humanitarian aid officer in Sudan, Wim Fransen of Belgium, was shot and injured in Khartoum.[218] On 21 April, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that one of its local employees was killed in a crossfire while traveling with his family near El-Obeid.[219]

On 20 July, an 18-member team of Médecins Sans Frontières was attacked while transporting supplies to the Turkish Hospital in south Khartoum. By then, the World Health Organization had verified 51 attacks on medical facilities and personnel since the conflict began, resulting in 10 deaths and 24 injuries.[220] On 25 July, Humanitarian Coordinator Clementine Nkweta-Salami said 18 aid workers had been killed and over two dozen others were detained or unaccounted for.[221] The conflict has led the United Nations to declare Sudan the most dangerous country in the world for humanitarian workers after South Sudan.[7]

The situation was further compounded by attacks on humanitarian facilities, with more than 50 warehouses looted, 82 offices ransacked, and over 200 vehicles stolen.[185] One particularly devastating looting incident in El Obeid in early June resulted in the loss of food "that could have fed 4.4 million people".[184]

Children conscription

There are increasing reports of children being recruited into armed groups.[222] Observers accused the RSF of recruiting children as young as 14 to fight against the SAF using "money" and "false pretences", with some of them reportedly seen on the frontline in Khartoum.[214]

Reaction and investigation

Both the SAF and the RSF are accused of committing war crimes,[2][3][4][28][10] with the RSF being singled out by the Human Rights Watch,[4] and the United Kingdom[5] and United States[6] governments for committing crimes against humanity.

On 13 July 2023, the office of the International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan said that it had launched investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the course of the 2023 conflict, within the context of its Darfur investigation, which started in 2005 based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593.[17][223] The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution limits the investigation to Darfur.[224][225] On 5 September, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu acknowledged that the conflict and related abuses had "strong identity-based components."[12] In an interview by the BBC, Burhan said that he would cooperate with the ICC to bring those responsible to justice.[9] In his report to the UNSC on 29 January 202, h expressed that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that crimes outlined in the "Rome Statute" are currently taking place in the "unstable western region".[1][226][227]

On 3 August, Amnesty International released its report on the conflict. Titled Death Came To Our Home: War Crimes and Civilian Suffering In Sudan, it documented "mass civilian casualties in both deliberate and indiscriminate attacks" by both the SAF and the RSF, particularly in Khartoum and West Darfur. It also detailed sexual violence against women and girls as young as 12, targeted attacks on civilian facilities such as hospitals and churches, and looting.[31][30][29]

On 6 September, the US State Department and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on the RSF's deputy commander and Hemedti's brother Abdelrahim Dagalo, and Abdel Rahman Jumma, the RSF's top commander in West Darfur, over "extensive" human rights violations during the conflict, with Jumma in particular being accused of masterminding the assassination of the state's governor Khamis Abakar in June.[228] Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, accused the RSF ethnic cleansing in December 2023.[10]

The SAF accused the RSF of perpetrating war crimes.[229] On 4 August, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, as chair of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, established a committee tasked with investigating war crimes, human rights violations, and other crimes attributed to the RSF.[102] The committee was to be chaired by a representative of the Attorney General, and also included officials from the Foreign and Justice Ministries, the SAF, the Police, the General Intelligence Service, and the National Commission for Human Rights.[230][231] During his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York in September, al-Burhan called for the international community to designate the RSF as a "terrorist group".[232]

In September, the United States, Britain, Norway, and Germany planned to propose a motion to the UN Human Rights Council for an investigation into the alleged atrocities in Sudan. The draft motion, which condemns the human rights violations during the conflict, aimed to establish a three-person Fact Finding Mission to investigate these allegations. The experts would document the violations and provide updates to the 47-member Council. The draft has been circulated among member countries but has not yet been formally submitted to the Council.[233] On 11 October, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 19–16 with 12 abstentions to adopt a resolution creating a fact-finding committee on crimes and violations in Sudan since the start of the conflict.[234]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for robust measures to address the ongoing atrocities, urging the United States to take action at the UN Security Council to protect civilians and hold those responsible for the violence accountable.[139] The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) has expressed grave concern over the targeting of civilians and public facilities by the RSF and allied militias, and the need for urgent action to ensure the safety and protection of civilians in Darfur.[235]

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War crimes during the War in Sudan (2023–present)
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